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Desert Rescue: Dean Goes On Patrol

I managed to get a full night’s sleep in my own bed after dumping Nick and Thomas the fugitive off in town. When I say a full nights sleep it’s not as full as some might get, I’m usually awake by 5:30am as the day starts to wake up and I’m rarely still in bed by the time the sun gets up. But it was still good sleep and I was thankful for it.

After breakfast I set about checking my chains, cables and straps, although I do my best to roll them up properly after each use sometimes I’m tired after a big day and they do just get thrown on the back of the Beast. Aside from making sure they are rolled and repacked properly pulling everything our gives me a chance to check them and make sure they are in a serviceable condition because the last thing I need is to get out to a rescue only to find one of the straps I need is frayed.

My phone began ringing almost immediately after I closed the last lid on the under tray storage boxes, it was almost as if someone was looking down from above and was waiting until I’d finished to put the call through to me.

“Hello, Dean speaking.” I said after pushing the send button on the screen of my phone.

I listened to the caller tell me they were stuck about two hours out of town and they needed someone with towing capabilities to winch their vehicle from where it was stuck. They were travelling alone and hadn’t seen any other vehicles for the entire morning and as soon as their satellite phone came into range they called for help and were eventually given my number.

The Beast was a little over qualified for a glorified tow vehicle but none the less a job was a job and I wasn’t about to leave someone stranded in the bush just because my ride was suited better to a bigger job. Once I got off the phone I looked at the map and plotted my course to the stranded party, providing the rescue went well and I didn’t hit any snags I’d be back before dark, which as you know by now is a definite preference of mine.

I restocked the fridge with cold water and a few snacks, gave the Beast a quick once over then jumped in the cabin and took off. Like most times when I left town on a rescue I went via the police station and let Nick know where I was headed, not because he would miss me but because letting someone know when and where you are going in the Australian bush is something everyone should do, even me.

Nick still had a bunch of city cops hanging around the station when I got there and he didn’t have time for a long chat, which suited me fine because hanging around chatting would only make my day longer. In the brief chat I had with him he told me I would be required to chat to Pete, his supervisor, about what happened while we captured Thomas but he assured me that although the chat was routine his supervisor wasn’t and he wouldn’t be asking questions to get anyone in trouble. I was fine with police procedure, you’d be surprised how often even someone like me who spends her day simply rescuing people ends up getting caught up in police procedure, I stopped being nervous with it ages ago. Once I had filled out a brief travel log for Nick’s records I told him I would be back before dark to talk to Pete, then bid him farewell from the cabin of the Beast.

I headed north east out of town and along a few unmarked tracks, despite them not being marked on maps the tracks were quite well travelled by locals which meant that while I remained careful I could maintain speeds of up to 60kph without drama. Not that I expected any different but the Beast handled the roads great, nothing stopped her and common sense kept her in one piece and I made great time getting out to the stranded party.

Now I have not given you much information about this rescue and there is a reason for that. Of course I knew what I was headed too, I don’t hang up the phone without knowing what to expect, but I wanted to explain to you what I saw when I arrived on scene rather than simply telling you what I was told on the phone. I just hope I can do the scene justice.

The stranded party were in a dry river bed, it wasn’t an over deep gully, maybe ten meters on average but because of the way mother nature works and what comes down these rivers when they do run it’s not uncommon for trees to grow on the edges, even smack bang in the middle of the dry water course. Over the years some of these tress can grow to be quite large in size, especially the gum trees.

I was driving slowly along the river bed, there was no chance of water but I was still being careful not to hit anything laying in the dirt. I’d been on the dry river bed for nearly 15 minutes and by my calculations the people I was looking for were just around the big left hand bend ahead of me. My calculations were of course right, (because I am that good!!) but when I came around the bend even knowing what I was heading for didn’t prepare me for what I saw.

As I rounded the bend the first thing I saw was the massive gum tree, but the second thing I saw was the undercarriage of a Nissan Patrol, the vehicle wasn’t upside down or on it side, it was on an angle. It looked like the front wheels were going up an invisible ramp and the car was about to complete a big ski jump. Moving closer I could easily see that the rear wheels were also off the ground and the Patrol was actually sitting on it’s rear bar with the tow bar jagged into the soft dirt of the dry river bead.

Because I had been approaching square on from the front of the vehicle that is all I saw until I moved to the left and pulled up along side of the stranded Patrol, and stranded definitely explained it. From the driver’s seat of the Beast I could see what had happened and why the Patrol was left where it was. There was very little damage to the vehicle itself but the damage to the owner’s ego might have been a little bit more substantial.

The man, his name was Jason, was driving south along the river bed, his wife was in the passenger seat and they were headed from Darwin to Perth stopping where ever and when ever the desire took them. Jason had been taking all the required precautions, driving safely and driving to the conditions the only thing he forgot to take into account was the height of his vehicle in relation to the height of the gum tree branch.

As he’d been travelling along the large branch hooked itself between the roof top tent and the roof of the Patrol. How the tree did not give way first is anyone’s guess but instead as the vehicle slowly moved forward it lifted the front wheels off the ground. From there physics and gravity took over and the vehicle kept moving until the rear wheels lost traction and the towbar pushed it’s way into the dirt leaving the Patrol stranded. Jason and Elly had to climbed out of the suspended vehicle and jumped to the ground from several feet in the air, they were just lucky they had their sat phone handy and not stashed somewhere in with the rest of their gear.

It does sound like a silly mistake and it is, but in reality it was nothing more than a slip of the mind something we all do from time to time. It’s easy to berate or laugh at someone for such things but in most cases people spend more time beating themselves up for such silly mistakes so it’s not worth helping them.

I surveyed the scene before me and thought about the best way to retrieve the Patrol with the least amount of damage. I looked from every angle, I climbed up on the Beast to look at it from a higher perspective and I looked for ways to secure the vehicle to ensure my own safety as much as anything else. Safety is something I don’t take lightly and the twenty minutes I spent running different scenarios through my head did me well and once I was happy I had things worked out I began the rescue.

Previous Desert Rescue stories here.


  1. Go, Dean! I really like this character. Great job of describing things. I feel like I can see the whole thing. Kudos, my friend. Btw, traveling from Cheyenne to Ft. Collins yesterday my daughter saw five tipped over semis because of the wind. One had come completely over onto their sides of the highway. There was another beside them weaving, and they just floored it to get out of there. Yikes!

  2. I like Dean, and I can picture this predicament, but can’t see the remedy.

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